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By Published On: May 5th, 2009

sunnytennis2When Sunny first came to live with me I figured it was just a matter of short time before he’d realize that he had landed in paradise. Surely it wouldn’t be long before he’d be a happy normal dog. Apparently I had set my sights a bit high at that point.

I have always had goals for Sunny and while the big picture goal, comfort with all humanity, is still a bit lofty, we continue to meet other goals. Here are some of the goals I’ve had and continue to have for him:

*He would look at me and wag his tail-This took months but it happened and now I can make Sunny wag with a few words, even waving to him. It never fails to make me smile.

*Be able to come inside on his own-This took over a year and he is still sometimes reluctant and hesitant about it but I no longer have to go out in the dark of night to guide him in. We did lots of practice in & out, plus some incompatible behavior stuff with Sunny having to come inside to target my hand in order to get me to out and throw the tennis ball.

*Get in and out of the car on his own-Got it! Love this, now I can let him out in places, he can have a bit of a leg stretch and get back in the car easily. This took over two years.

*Go up and down the stairs in the house-Got it! He slinks up at night to sleep on the floor next to the bed, then slinks back down when my husband gets up.

*Come when I call him-He’s got a decent recall which took over a year and a half to nail, it’s still hard for him to come to me if something is scaring him, for that he has a ‘wait’ and I can approach him and get him on leash.

*Not be afraid of my husband-Still working on this one. Sunny has learned that when my husband comes home he ‘might’ go out and throw frisbees and is ready to head out and play. Sunny can’t get close to my husband and often does not even go after the frisbee but he’s having positive experiences with him and that’s what we need. Neutral is just not good enough for Sunny.

*Not be afraid of other members of humanity-Sunny is better with women (not unusual for a fearful dog) and after a short time, in comfortable locations, is often able to target a hand and take a treat. But out in the world people are scary unless they happen to have a frisbee in their hands. He does not rush up and greet anyone and even when approaching me he offers lots of body curves, lowered head and a grin, very sweet.

Recently I was sitting on the back stoop, my treat bag full of good stuff and all my dogs gathered around for hand-outs. This is the door which I use to go in and out of the house most often. It is not a door that Sunny can get himself to come in on his own. Sunny was looking on with interest, showing some concern over the dog crate that was nearby, but was willing to come and target my hand while I sat on the bottom step. All the pieces were there for a ‘teachable moment’, the attitude of the other dogs was upbeat and they were focused on the dried liver which appeared when they stared hard enough, sat down, or offered their paw.

I began to slide myself up step by step, getting Sunny to target my hand and drawing him up toward the door with me. We took a break after he got to door level but on his return he was comfortable enough to join me on the top step immediately. The door was latched open and the scene was set for him to follow the other dogs as they passed by him and went into the house. And he did. Another first for Sunny, three and a half years in the making!

In the scheme of life with Sunny, having him be able to come in this door is only slightly more convenient for me. I was happy to have him able to come in ANY door, but it shows that he is learning and gaining more skills. I pick and choose which behaviors I am going to spend time working on with Sunny, since the possibilities are endless, it’s nice to have obvious milestones like this to remind me that change happens, slowly perhaps, but it happens.

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